Malapascua Island, Philippines – one of the only places in the world where SCUBA divers can come face to face with pelagic thresher sharks (also known as “fox sharks”). Thresher sharks are famous for their unusually long tails, which can sometimes measure as long as their torpedo shaped muscular bodies! The thresher shark uses its tail as a weapon, whipping, stunning and immobilizing its prey. Definitely a sight to behold but few divers encounter the thresher as they typically hang out between 30 to 150 meters in the open ocean. However, lucky for us, Monad Shoal at Malapascua Island is one of the most notable (and reliable) hot spots in the world to see pelagic threshers on a regular basis. Sign us up!
Taking the public boat to Bario Logon; Malapascua Island
Our home for the week at Aabana Resort
One main "road" on Malapascua Island
Let the good times roll - walking to Evolution Dive Center to start our week of diving
Getting a dive briefing from Anne, a dive master at Evolution
Evolution Diving Resort
Eating a cheap lunch near Malapascua's main market area
Posing next to a Thresher shark mural; Bounty Beach
Dining beach side!
Malapascua is a macro diver's delight with numerous unique nudibranchs. Here, two variable neon slugs (nembrotha kubaryana) can be seen side by side
Black saddled toby (Valentino Puffer)
Scribbled puffer fish
Green polka dotted nudibranch
A perfect day for diving; Malapascua Island
Fish drying on a rack; Bounty Beach
Fish drying on a rack; Bounty Beach
Giant sea slug seen on a night dive
Robby posing with a statue at Gato Island
Banded Coral Cleaner Shrimp
Impossible to take a photo of a juvenile harlequin sweetlips as it is constantly wriggling from side to side (mimicking the movement of flatworms)
Yellow seahorse; Gato Island
Juvenile white spotted bamboo shark; Gato Island
Pregnant seahorse; Gato Island
Blue with yellow spots nudibranch
Evolution dive support staff playing a game to pass the time while we dive
Thresher sharks are a sight to behold...we felt so lucky to get circled by one multiple times on our last dive!
Thresher sharks use their long, scythe like tails to whip or stun prey as they hunt. Believe it or not but their tails are as long as their bodies!
Josh giving us the dive briefing for "Deep Slope", one of our favorite local dive spots
Josh, Marco and Robby getting ready for our dive at Deep Slope
Commerson's frogfish (giant frogfish) with an open mouth
Spot the giant frogfish in this picture!
Straight nose pipefish
Dotted nudibranch (Jorunna funebris)
Dive master Jo giving us the Giliano dive briefing
Profile of a seahorse; Giliano
Feather duster worms
Bubble coral which increases its surface area depending on how much sunlight is available
A symbiotic relationship between a crab and an anemone
Beautiful coral gardens make diving Malapascua a joy to behold!
Leather mushroom coral
Robby on the swing set; Evolution Dive Center
Getting spoiled as the hard working Evolution dive staff offloads our SCUBA gear from the dive boat
Orange flowers; Aabana Resort
Becky chilling on our hammock; Aabana Resort
Enjoying 2 for 1 happy hour with Shi, Marco and Eemin; Craic House
Panorama of Bounty Beach - another great dive day
Blue flowers in our garden; Aabana Resort
Following dive master Josh on the MV Doña Marilyn ferry wreck
Resident eel; MV Doña Marilyn
Jellyfish with fish hitchhikers; MV Doña Marilyn
Maria's Point - a fabulous soft coral garden awaits!
Bubble Tip Anemone
Bubble Honeycomb Coral (Euphyllia Ancora)
Soft coral detail
Peacock mantis shrimp
Flower soft coral
Worm infestation on coral
Blue Dragon (Pteraeolidia Ianthina) nudibranch tucked away in soft coral
The very rare sargassum frogfish, which lives among sargassum seaweed. This frogfish was released at Malapascua Island
Craic House bar - excellent 2 for 1 happy hour specials daily
Enjoying a beer at Exotica Restaurant
Evolution dive crew
Purple and yellow nudibranch
Seahorse searching for food
School of catfish
Baby fish hide from predators under the protective dome of this jellyfish!
Spearing mantis shrimp
Nudibranchs come in all shapes, sizes and colors. This is one of 2000 unique species of nudibranchs
Nudibranchs are easy to spot if you go slow and pay attention to every nook and cranny
Uniformed school kids walking to school; Malapascua Island
Cuttlefish doing a great job camouflaging itself
Spotted moray eel
Porcupine puffer fish
Giant moray eel
Dorid nudibranch (Halgerda batangas)
Dive master humor!
Dog chilling at Aabana Resort
Coconut tree; Aabana Resort
Posing with Josh, our favorite Evolution dive master; Malapascua Island
Our last sunset on Malapascua Island
To reach Malapascua Island, we had to fly into Cebu, take a taxi to the north bus terminal, hop on a Ceres bus to Maya Port, and flag down a public boat to Malapascua Island…whew! We were definitely happy to reach the island late that afternoon. Our home for the week was the lovely Aabana Beach & Watersport Resort, right next door to Evolution Diving Resort. Our plan was to dive with the threshers every morning at the crack of dawn, and depending on how the rest of the diving was, log up to 15 dives during the week. Little did we know that diving with the threshers meant getting up at 4 am, so we quickly modified our original plan! 4 am wake up every morning on vacation…no thanks, ha ha.
The threshers did not disappoint. We were very lucky to see them on all 3 dives we did with them, unlike the previous week where they struck out 4 mornings in a row. The best dive was the last, with at least 10 thresher shark sightings, including one that leisurely circled us several times. Magical! Big kudos to dive master Josh who took us to his favorite cleaning station. Diving Nitrox is a must, or we would have had to cut our bottom time short. Well worth it…being that intimate with the threshers was an unforgettable natural high.
As for the rest of the diving at Malapascua, we weren’t expecting too much, but damn, were we shocked when we realized it is a macro divers’ delight! From seahorses, nudibranchs, pipefish, shrimps, frogfishes, pygmy squid (about the size of a grain of rice)…the underwater world never fails to amaze us. Before we knew it, we had logged 16 dives, including a dusk dive to see the mandarin fish courtship dance, a night dive where we spotted the elusive blue-ringed octopus, a day trip to the unmissable Gato Island, and a day trip to see the Dona Marilyn ship wreck and Maria’s Point (best coral garden of the trip). Diving in the Philippines is very impressive, but keep your expectations in check. While we love the big exciting stuff, we absolutely do appreciate the small stuff too. Aaaah, so many more places to add to our Philippines SCUBA bucket list (Moalboal Sardine Run, Dumaguete’s macro diving at Dauin, Coron Bay’s wreck diving, Cathedral Rock Diving at Anilao and Batangas, and Siquijor Island). Needless to say, we’ll definitely be back. This is the start of a new love affair with the Philippines, which had catapulted itself to the top of our favorite Southeast Asian countries!